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Internationally Recognized Physics Researcher Joins Faculty

Pioneering work by David Singh ultimately will improve efficiency of automobiles, industries and contribute to cleaner fuel consumption

May 5th, 2016

Story Contact: Jeff Sossamon, 573-882-3346,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Typically, a car’s engine loses about one-third of its gasoline in heat — not in propelling the car down the road. In fact, according to physics professor, David Singh, about half the energy consumed in the U.S. actually results in waste heat. Recently, the internationally renowned researcher joined the University of Missouri’s Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Science. Research on the study of thermoelectrics that is conducted in his lab will help harness and convert waste heat from cars and combustion engines into electricity using thermoelectric materials.

“I have been studying thermoelectrics for more than a decade, beginning with research I conducted with the U.S. Navy where I developed cooling systems for submarines,” Singh said. “I look forward to applying that knowledge to the work being conducted at Mizzou and hope to contribute to the cutting-edge research performed here each and every day.”

Thermoelectric materials developed by Singh and his team help produce usable electrical power when heat flows through them. This solid-state energy conversion does not involve moving parts; instead, thermoelectrics can be used for generating power from heat sources, in reverse for cooling applications, or in a mixed mode for precise temperature controllers.

Singh says thermoelectrics are used in a variety of applications, such as power supplies for the Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft. Those craft carried plutonium similar to the shape of hockey pucks that produce heat as they decay, and that heat is converted to electricity with thermoelectric materials. Some high-end wine coolers, which do not vibrate because there is no compressor, use thermoelectrics. He says that lack of vibration is also important in certain military applications.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Singh to our college,” said Michael J. O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science. “His ground-breaking research will contribute greatly to boosting Mizzou’s standing in the Association of American Universities (AAU) and our efforts to attract other world-class scientists to Mizzou.”

Singh and his fellow researchers recently published the article, “Harnessing Topological Band Effects in Bismuth Telluride Selenide for Large Enhancements in Thermoelectric Properties through Isovalent Doping” in the journal Advanced Materials showing that very low amounts of sulfur doping in a material (bismuth telluride selenide) can improve both the conductivity and the thermal power of a thermoelectric material. He has published more than 500 peer-reviewed publications and has been cited more than 32,000 times.

Editor’s Note: For more on the story, please see: “Capturing Wasted Energy